An Australian study appearing in the American Heart Association journal Stroke reports that costs to treat strokes resulting from bleeding in the brain may rise significantly 10 years later.

A news release issued by the American Heart Association states that the study includes 10 years of follow-up data regarding stroke cost estimates, which also apply to the US.

According to the release, in general, expenses linked to stroke peak within the first year and decline over time. The previous estimates of lifetime costs in Australia were reportedly based upon a 5-year average, and may have also underestimated costs, specifically for hemorrhagic strokes.

Stroke prevention should be a key focus, particularly since the cost of providing care to individuals who have sustained a stroke are unlikely to diminish, says Dominique Cadilhac, PhD, study senior author, associate professor and head of the Translational Public Health: Stroke and Aging Research Center at Monash University in Victoria, Australia.

“Much could be gained if we could work to prevent the majority of strokes that are due to modifiable risk factors, such as high blood pressure or diabetes,” Cadilhac points out.

During the study, the release notes that researchers interviewed 243 ischemic stroke patients and 43 intracerebral hemorrhage patients who had survived for 10 years or more. The patients had participated in an earlier Australian regional study that estimated 5-year costs.

The findings indicate that average annual direct costs for ischemic stroke remained stable between 5 to 10 years at about $5,207 in US dollars. Average annual direct costs for intracerebral hemorrhage stroke increased 31%, from $5,807 at 5 years to $7,607 at 10 years, and the overall average lifetime costs per case for intracerebral hemorrhage stroke increased 25%, from $43,786 to $54,956. The researchers say medication, age care facilities, and informal care expenses explained the majority of costs at 10 years. Rehabilitation expenses decreased for ischemic stroke.

Cadilhac adds that the researchers “did not know that the cost differentials would be so great between ischemic stroke and interecrebral hemorrhage and that short-term estimates (6 to 12 months after a first stroke) used to approximate lifetime annual resource use after the first year would not be a good predictor of future costs.”

The release states that like America, the Australian healthcare system is funded through public and private health insurance, yet the way in which healthcare is delivered and priced may influence cost differences between the two health systems.

Cadilhac emphasizes that researchers hope the study’s findings can be used to influence the need for more primary prevention and to also support assessment of the cost-effectiveness of interventions to reduce disability from stroke.

Additionally, Cadilhac adds that by ensuring the best evidence-based guideline treatment is provided in hospitals, this will assist in reducing disability linked to stroke and, in turn, may help avoid unnecessary age care placements or an undue burden on caregivers.

[Source: American Heart Association]